Chris Degnan, CRO of Snowflake, On Grit and Grind
Chris Degnan has been wildly successful in his career. Since his start as a sales rep for an advertising platform that no longer exists, he worked his way up to be Chief Revenue Officer at Snowflake, which generated over half a billion in 2020 revenue. But he’s the first to tell you that he never takes success for granted. “I’m just the guy who’s grinding it out every day.”
That do-whatever-it-takes attitude was sparked at an early age. First, Chris was singled out with dyslexia at age eight and had to attend a special class to learn skills that most of us consider a given. Just a few years later, his family’s circumstances changed dramatically overnight. “I’ve had plenty of opportunities to feel sorry for myself. But that’s not how I am. I think, ‘I’m going to figure out how to get through today.”
I learned that you don’t have to be the most talented salesperson; you just have to outwork everybody else.
While always a hard worker, Chris stumbled into sales. Shortly after graduating from college, Chris found himself in a management training program at Franklin Temple. In one of his rotations, he got a taste of sales. “I enjoyed educating people. Once I realized that seasoned salespeople made quite a bit of money, I was sold.”
An opportunity at an early online advertising platform confirmed for Chris that sales was his destiny. He then became the first sales rep at a start-up called Covalent, where he survived several rounds of layoffs – again, due to his grit.
“I grinded it out and made 100 phone calls a day.” In fact, Chris’ perseverance landed the company a meeting with the CTO of CNET. “I learned that you don’t have to be the most talented salesperson; you just have to outwork everybody else.”
Chris embraced that same mindset and approach while an account rep at Informatica and EMC. At Informatica, he combed through every customer contract looking for upsell opportunities. At EMC, he found creative ways to meet the boss’ demand that he secure 15 face-to-face meetings every week.
Now as CRO at Snowflake, Chris still relies on his grit while remaining humble. “I am lucky to be on this journey. You have to be humble, accept feedback and be coachable, even when you’ve experienced a ton of success.”
Chris’ other keys to success include:
- Adhering to metrics. Chris gives reps clarity by spelling out the metrics that matter.
- Balancing strategy and tactics. As he’s moved up the ladder, Chris has learned to balance systemic issues with everyday execution.
- Being an empathetic leader. Chris believes in guiding the sales team but also being open to their experiences